Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am Sorry for Your Loss

The phrase “I am sorry for your loss” is familiar to anyone who watches crime dramas on television. The standardized sentence gives the law enforcement officer something to say when there are no words adequate to the occasion.

I recently used the phrase myself when a neighbor lost her mother after a long illness. I never met her mother so the bereavement was not a personal one.

Using the sentence made me think about what I was actually saying. I decided this group of six words is quite powerful. We can communicate a lot of meaning when we use it.

“I” is as personal as it gets. Those of us with any life knowledge at all have experienced the loss of something dear to us whether it was a relative, beloved pet or a favorite toy. Things are mislaid, pets disappear and people move away or die. When we say we are sorry, we are sympathetic because we have some idea of how the other individual feels.

“Sorry” has a number of synonyms including sad. Because I didn’t know my neighbor’s mother, I wasn’t sad but I have been. Although my parents are still alive, my grandparents are deceased and one of my dearest friends has died.

My neighbor and her mother had been close so in addition to losing a parent, my neighbor lost a good friend. While death is one of the passages of life, knowing it is inevitable does not ease our pain when it comes to those we love. This kind of loss makes us hurt both physically and emotionally.

On one or two of those crime dramas, the characters disparaged the phrase they must use so often. I, however, appreciate it. When I used it with my neighbor, I meant it. I knew my neighbor was grief-stricken and I felt badly about it. Those six words said it all.

I am sorry for her loss.